With an OK from his landlord, Serfer turned the courtyard of the Biscayne Inn motel where his tiny Blue Collar restaurant is located into an outdoor beer garden. He added seats, umbrellas, and tiki torches to increase his dining footprint.
His other ventures, Vinaigrette sandwich shop downtown and the seafood-centric Mignonette on NE 18th Street and Second Avenue near the southwestern corner of Edgewater, didn't fare as well. Mignonette didn't have room for outdoor seating and the sandwich shop simply couldn't draw the traffic to stay open. With both restaurants closed temporarily, Serfer and partner Ryan Roman had an idea: Why not turn Mignonette's kitchen into a virtual restaurant selling Italian red-sauce comfort food?
Roman and Serfer had been kicking around the Italian-food concept for a while.
"We've been sitting on Red Sauce a long time, but we never pulled the trigger," Serfer says, adding that when more people began having meals delivered as the lockdown set in, the partners agreed the timing was right to turn Red Sauce into a virtual restaurant.
The concept: Offer classic "red sauce" dishes, like a chicken parm and a spaghetti with Bolognese made from slow-roasted lamb, beef, and pork.
And a French-bread pizza that's a chef-driven take on a frozen favorite.
"When I was a kid, I loved Stouffer's French Bread Pizzas and I continue to eat them today," Serfer says. "I originally was going to put a version on the Blue Collar menu, but I was talked out of it. Now I can finally offer it to people."
Sterfer also recommends the chicken Marsala. "It's kinda hard to find a good chicken Marsala around here," he maintains. "Blue Collar always had a good chicken parm, but Marsalas are few and far between."
Most dishes are priced well under $20.
Serfer says he's been overwhelmed by the response in the week since the concept was launched. "We've been swamped with orders all weekend. It's mind-blowing to me."
He says Red Sauce's popularity lies in the fact that the menu offers familiar dishes that people simply like.
"It's straight Italian-American food. It's identifiable food that you don't have to try hard to think about.It's shrimp scampi and pizza. It's not like some dish with a fancy, precious description."
The dishes are also formulated to travel well. The pastas are "extra saucy," Serfer notes — the better to stand up to reheating.
Red Sauce is available for delivery via Uber Eats.
"They do the best delivery service and offer the biggest radius," Serfer explains. "I don't think we would be able to deliver on our own and hit as many people as they hit."
Those who prefer to dine out can opt to have Uber Eats deliver any Red Sauce order to Blue Collar's beer garden. In fact, Serfer welcomes guests at the beer garden to order from any restaurant they choose and relax with a few beers or some wine. (A small "corkage" fee applies for bringing in outside food, which is waived for Red Sauce orders.)
The beer garden is open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Red Sauce. Delivery via UberEats 5 to 10 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday.